words by Elizabeth Ganley-Roper
The anti-racist group and advisor to the United Nations, Gherush92, has declared that Dante Alighieri’s infamous Divine Comedy should be banned from Italian schools. Claiming that the work is racist, homophobic, anti-Islamist and anti-Semitic, the group’s president, Valentina Sereni, says the work doesn’t belong in today’s classrooms.
In an interview with the news agency Adnkronos, Sereni stated: “The Divine Comedy is the pillar of Italian literature and a cornerstone of Italian literature and the educational formation of the country’s students… Students are taught the work’s offensive and discriminatory language without any filter”.
The epic poem, written by Dante between 1308 and his death in 1321, traces his journey through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. Made up of 100 cantos, the anti-racist group found half a dozen particularly offensive.
According to Sereni, "The Prophet Mohammed was subjected to a horrific punishment – his body was split from end to end so that his entrails dangled out, an image that offends Islamic culture”. In addition, homosexuals are considered “against nature” and punished to burn in Hell.
Although Sereni claims the group doesn’t “advocate censorship or the burning of books”, they have called for the book to be removed from school curricula, or at least accompanied by critical commentary.
It seems that Gherush92 is fighting an uphill battle. The Divine Comedy is one of Italy’s most deep-rooted symbols and many have come to the defence of Dante’s work.
Literature professor at La Sapienza University in Rome, Giulio Ferroni, stated, “It’s the umpteenth delirium of the politically correct”.
Aurelio Mancuso, the head of the civil rights group Equality Italia, responded, “The only thing I can say without breaking into laughter is to keep your hands off of the Divine Comedy”.